PARIS (AP) — Less than 48 hours after learning of the death of his childhood coach, Novak Djokovic was on court at the French Open, determined to complete a career Grand Slam in honor of the woman he likened to a "second mother."
Still grieving, Djokovic began shakily Monday. Six of the match's first seven unforced errors were his. After one poor exchange, he chucked his racket hard enough to break it. He dropped a set for the only time in four matches so far.
After recovering quickly to dispatch 16th-seeded Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 and reach the quarterfinals at a 16th consecutive major tournament, Djokovic spoke from the heart about the passing of Jelena Gencic, who was 76.
"It hasn't been easy, but this is life. You know, life gives you things (but also) takes away close people," Djokovic said. "We were very close throughout my whole life, and she taught me a lot of things that are part of me, part of my character."
Gencic connected with a 6-year-old Novak at a tennis camp, then worked with him for five years.
"I feel even more responsible now to go all the way in this tournament," said the No. 1-ranked Djokovic, who owns six Grand Slam titles but none from Roland Garros. "I want to do it for her."